The Santa Monica City Council unanimously approved Nov. 26 a resolution modifying term limits for some boards and commissions, opening the door for appointed officials to serve a third term on a body where appointees have a specific professional expertise.
For example, the Landmarks and Planning Commissions are bodies where at least one member on the dais is required to have a significant background in architecture.
Allowing appointed board members and commissioners to serve an extra term ensures, according to City staff, “bodies possess and maintain the requisite expertise for their particular work.”
The approved resolution opened the door for John Berley to be appointed to a third term on the Landmarks Commission.
The council appointed Berley to a new term in a separate matter moments after the term limits agenda item was considered and approved.
Interestingly enough, when the council was restricted in making an appointment to the Landmarks Commission in September, Santa Monica’s elected panel realized City policy governing appointments to boards and commissions “might preclude reappointment of a current commissioner who wants to continue his service but may be termed out.”
Under the City policy, board members and commissioners were limited to two terms of service unless a third term was authorized by at least two-thirds vote by the City Council.
Yet, the council was restricted in approving a third term. Specifically, City policy precluded the council from approving a third term if that appointment resulted in one-third (or more) of the board or commission concurrently serving three consecutive terms.
The City policy specifically stated: “the total number of members that may serve a third consecutive term on a board or commission at the same [time] is limited to no more than one-third of the membership of that board or commission, but the Council may, by two-thirds vote, make an exception in order to fill positions on boards and commissions that have specific qualifications, such as professional standing or expertise.”
City staff stated in its report to council members the City policy was “somewhat unclear.”
Council’s vote last week helped add clarity to a murky policy. The approved modification, according to City staff, provides the council with “greater flexibility to make reappointments to those bodies that need special expertise but would maintain the current term limitations as to other boards and commissions.”
“This resolution to the Council’s concerns is recommended because it preserves the balance between Council’s goals of maximizing opportunities for public participation and also ensuring that bodies possess adequate expertise,” City staff stated.
Accordingly, the new policy would allow council members to authorize a board member or commissioner to serve a third consecutive term, even if it results in the body having more than one-third of its members serving consecutive third terms, for a body requiring specific qualifications, professional standing, or expertise.
Under City law, the Planning Commission must have at least two board members who are professional architects; at least one registered architect must serve on the Landmarks Commission.
Council members swiftly approved the agenda item last week with a 5 to 0 vote; Mayor Pro Tem Terry O’Day and Council member Ted Winterer were not present at the Nov. 26 meeting.